U.S. case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou breaks international law: defence

·4 min read

VANCOUVER — American authorities are violating international law by bringing fraud charges against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou that have no connection to the United States, a defence lawyer argues.

Gib van Ert told a British Columbia Supreme Court judge on Monday that if Canada extradites Meng to face the charges, it will be guilty of breaking international law as well.

"The United States' extension of its criminal law to Meng, its indictment of her in a New York court and its pursuit of her in Canada through this extradition hearing are all serious misconduct by the U.S.," van Ert said.

"This proceeding is, we say, an abuse by the United States of the extradition process and of this court's own process, because it is all done in plain violation of international law."

The U.S. has alleged that Meng lied to HSBC about Huawei's relationship with a subsidiary called Skycom doing business in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating American sanctions. She and the company both deny the allegations.

Meng was arrested in 2018 while passing through Vancouver's airport and her lawyers are arguing that the extradition process should be stayed because of an abuse of process.

Her lawyer said the U.S. is prohibited from applying its law to other countries. Meng is a Chinese national, HSBC is a bank based in the United Kingdom and China, and the 2013 meeting between them happened in Hong Kong, van Ert said.

"If any laws were broken that day, that is the concern of China, in whose territory the events occurred," he said.

Of course, he added, crime does not respect borders and international law acknowledges that. If the U.S. could show a "genuine and substantial" connection between its legal interests and what allegedly happened during that meeting, that would permit it to extend its criminal law to Meng, he said.

However, van Ert said the U.S. has claimed it has the right to bring the charges because payments between Skycom and HSBC were made in American dollars and cleared through U.S. banks.

The "incidental" clearance through the American financial system of foreign transactions between an English-Chinese bank and a Chinese company does not amount to a substantial or genuine connection, he argued.

The consequences of the violation of international law are "personal and real" for Meng, van Ert said.

"She has spent two years of her life and counting marooned in a foreign country, far from home, friends and her ordinary life, and she is prohibited from leaving," he said.

"The extradition process presumes that requesting states will not make claims against people and trigger complex extradition proceedings in the requested state without a lawful basis for doing so. Here, the requesting state has none."

Meng was granted bail days after her arrest and lives with her husband and children in one of her two multimillion dollar Vancouver homes.

Two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, were detained in China soon after Meng's arrest in a move widely seen as retaliation. They remain in custody and their one-day trials were recently held behind closed doors, although no verdicts were released.

Meng's lawyer noted that international law questions are not the day-to-day work of the B.C. Supreme Court. But van Ert said the court, and other Canadian courts, have been faced with breaches of international law in the past.

In each case, the attorney general of Canada, on behalf of the U.S., asked the court to disregard the international law violations, saying they did not abuse the court's process, van Ert said.

"In each case, the court concluded instead that to assist the United States in its extradition efforts, where those efforts involved violations of international law, was an affront."

The case is set to wrap up with an actual extradition or committal hearing in May.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes is first hearing four branches of arguments over whether Meng was subjected to an abuse of process that would compromise the fairness of proceedings against her.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2021.

Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press